Horny kangaroo in viral photos was not grieving, scientist says

A series of photos of kangaroos that some on social media have called 'heartwarming' and 'touching' may actually be much creepier than initially thought.

Photos going around on social media were 'fundamentally misinterpreted'

A researcher at the Australia Museum says the male is not cradling his lover's head, but rather trying to make her stand up to mate. (Evan Switzer)

A series of photos of a male kangaroo supposedly embracing a dying female captivated the internet this week, with some media outlets presenting the images as rare snapshots of love and grieving in the wild.

To many non-experts on social media, the male eastern grey kangaroo appeared to be lovingly cradling the female's head as she lay dying — apparently so she can get one last look at her joey, who is watching closely nearby — before passing into the kangaroo afterlife. 

But to at least one scientist who actually knows what he's talking about, the photos were "fundamentally misinterpreted." 

According to Mark Eldridge, principal research scientist at the Australian Museum in Sydney, the male kangaroo is clearly "sexually aroused." 

"The evidence is here sticking out from behind the scrotum (yes, in marsupials the penis is located behind the scrotum)," Eldridge said in a blog posted to the museum's website Thursday. 

"This is a male trying to get a female to stand up so he can mate with her." 

The photos were, as it turns out, less romantic than they originally appeared. 

Indeed, Derek Spielman, a senior lecturer in veterinary pathology at the University of Sydney, told the Guardian newspaper that the male may have even caused the injuries that resulted in the death of the female. 

Some on social media used the story as a reminder of the dangers of projecting human emotions onto animals.


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